Russia-Ukraine crisis updates | April 22, 2022

FILE -A Russian tank destroyed in recent fighting is seen on a road to Kyiv, Ukraine on April 15, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces not to storm the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the besieged city of Mariupol on Thursday but instead to block it "so that not even a fly comes through.”

President Joe Biden on Wednesday lauded U.S. military officials for “exceptional” work arming Ukraine as he gathered the nation's military brass for their first in-person group meeting at the White House of his presidency.

G7 finance ministers said they have provided and pledged together with international community additional support to Ukraine exceeding $24 billion for 2022 and beyond, adding that they were prepared to do more as needed.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said any peace talks over Ukraine are likely to fail, as he compared holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiating with a crocodile.

Here are the latest updates:

Ukraine

Russians shift elite units to the new battleground: Ukraine

Russia shifted a dozen crack military units from the shattered port of Mariupol to eastern Ukraine and pounded away at cities across the region, Ukrainian authorities said Friday, as the two sides hurtled toward what could be an epic battle for control of the country’s industrial heartland.

Meanwhile, Russia reported that one serviceman was killed and 27 others were left missing after the fire on board the warship Moskva, which sank a week ago following what the Ukrainians boasted was a missile attack. Moscow previously reported everyone aboard had been rescued.

The Russian Defense Ministry did not acknowledge an attack on the ship. It continued to say a fire broke out after ammunition detonated, without explaining how that happened. The loss of the guided missile cruiser — the flagship of Russia’s Black Fleet — was a humiliating setback for Moscow.

In Mariupol, reduced largely to smoking rubble by weeks of bombardment, Russian state TV showed the flag of the pro-Moscow Donetsk separatists raised on what it said was the city’s highest point, its TV tower. It also showed what it said was the main building at Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steel plant in flames.

The Kremlin has thrown over 100,000 troops and mercenaries from Syria and Libya into the fight in Ukraine and is deploying more forces in the country every day, said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.— AP

MOSCOW

Russian negotiator says ‘several long conversations’ took place with Ukraine

Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky confirmed a news report that “several long conversations” took place on Friday with the head of Ukraine’s delegation at the peace talks between the two countries but gave no further details.

Earlier this week the Kremlin said Russia submitted a new written proposal, however, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had neither seen nor heard about it. - Reuters

AMSTERDAM

Dutch aim to stop using Russian fossil fuels by year-end

The Netherlands government said that it plans to stop using Russian fossil fuels by the end of this year and vowed to spend an estimated 623 million euros ($675 million) on incentives for companies to fill a major gas storage facility at Bergermeer.

The government said it was focused on making energy savings, greener policies and importing more energy from other countries. As part of its efforts to end reliance on Russia, the government said it would compensate companies for filling the gas storage facility at Bergermeer, one of Europe's largest, ahead of the winter.

"In this way the Netherlands can completely conserve or replace the Russian share of its gas by the end of the year," it said in a statement, joining other countries in cutting back on Russian supplies in protest over the war in Ukraine.

About 44% of Dutch energy usage is based on gas - one of the highest rates in Europe - but only about 15% of Dutch gas comes from Russia, according to government estimates. - Reuters

WASHINGTON

U.S. lawmakers urge Biden administration to set up field hospitals for Ukraine

A group of bipartisan lawmakers in the U.S. called upon the Biden administration to set up field hospitals near Ukraine’s border and also extend medical support. In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, over a dozen House members urged the U.S. to fill gaps in Ukraine’s medical infrastructure.

Opening field hospitals in eastern Poland, providing Ukraine with armored ambulances and taking some of the sick and wounded to the U.S. military’s Landstuhl regional hospital in western Germany were some of the recommendations of the group. - AP

RUSSIA

Ukraine being ‘inconsistent’ at talks, Putin tells European Council chief

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of being “inconsistent” in the ongoing negotiations between the two sides, the Kremlin said. He also said Kyiv was not ready for seeking mutually acceptable solutions.

Mr. Putin, in a call with Charles Michel, President of the European Council, said he will hold direct talks with Mr. Zelensky only if the discussions between the two countries produce concrete results. - Reuters

MOSCOW

Russia prepared to stop firing to allow Mariupol evacuation

Citing the defence ministry, RIA reported on Friday that Russia is prepared to stop firing to allow fighters and civilians at the Azovstal steelworks plant in Mariupol to evacuate

The ministry said claims by Ukraine and some western countries that Russia was preventing civilians from leaving the city were “groundless”, the TASS news agency reported. - Reuters

BERLIN

Germany records over 369,000 refugees fleeing from Ukraine

A German Interior Ministry spokesperson said that Germany has recorded 369,381 refugees since the start of the war. The spokesperson added that the actual number is likely much higher.

UKRAINE

Satellite images show possible mass graves near Mariupol

New satellite images have revealed possible mass graves in a town outside Mariupol, where Ukrainian officials believe the Russian military has buried around 9,000 Ukrainian civilians killed in the fighting.

Satellite image provider Maxar Technologies released the images, which it said showed around 200 mass graves in Manhush, a town outside Mariupol. The images were of long rows of graves extending beyond an existing cemetery in Manhush.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said the Russians were “hiding their military crimes” by taking the bodies of civilians killed in the city and burying them in Manhush. According to the Mariupol City Council, the graves might hold more than 9,000 dead.

Boychenko called the Russian military’s actions “the new Babi Yar,” referring to Nazi massacres in 1941 which killed 34,000 Ukrainian Jews. - AP.

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UNITED NATIONS

Russian actions in Ukraine 'may amount to war crimes': UN

The United Nations on Friday accused Russia of taking action in Ukraine "that may amount to war crimes", including indiscriminate bombing that killed civilians and destroyed schools and hospitals.

"Russian armed forces have indiscriminately shelled and bombed populated areas, killing civilians and wrecking hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure, actions that may amount to war crimes," said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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NEW DELHI

Britain, India call for immediate ceasefire in Ukraine

India and Britain called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, post talks between Prime Minister Modi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

Modi told reporters that both sides discussed the situation in Ukraine, underscoring the importance of diplomacy and dialogue to settle issues. Johnson also announced steps to help India move away from its dependence on Russia by expanding economic and defense ties. 

While India receives relatively little of its oil from Russia, it has increased oil purchases recently because of discounted prices. India is also a major buyer of Russian weapons, and purchased advanced Russian air defense systems recently.- AP

BERLIN

NATO should avoid direct military confrontation with Russia: German Chancellor

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that NATO must avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia that could lead to a third world war, in an interview with Der Spiegel. When asked why he thought delivering tanks could lead to nuclear war, Scholz said there was no rule book specifying when Germany would be considered a party to the war in Ukraine.

“That’s why it is all the more important that we consider each step very carefully and coordinate closely with one another,” he reportedly said. “To avoid an escalation towards NATO is a top priority for me,” he added. - Reuters

MOSCOW

Plan to take control of Donbas and South Ukraine: Russian military

Russia’s military plans to take full control of Donbas and Southern Ukraine during the second phase of its military operations, the deputy commander of Russia‘s central military district said on Friday, according to reports from the Interfax news agency. 

He was also cited as saying that Russia planned to secure a passage to Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, from Donbas.

Meanwhile, TASS reported that the Russian military said that control of Southern Ukraine would also provide Russia with another gateway to Transnistria in Moldova, a breakaway state -Reuters

MOSCOW

Russian defence ministry claims it struck multiple targets in Ukraine

Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday that it struck 58 military targets in Ukraine overnight, including sites with a heavy concentration of troops, fuel depots and military equipment. 

It said it also struck three targets using high-precision missiles in Ukraine, including an S-300 air defence system and a large concentration of Ukrainian troops with their equipment. - Reuters

UKRAINE

No humanitarian corridors on Friday: Deputy PM

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said via a Facebook post that Ukraine was not opening any humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians from various cities in Ukraine on Friday.

“Due to the danger on the routes today, April 22, there will be no humanitarian corridors. To all those waiting to be evacuated: be patient, please hold on!,” her post read. - Reuters

MARIUPOL

Mariupol Mayor appeals for evacuation of city

Mayor Vadym Boichenko on Friday appealed for the full evacuation of Mariupol, which is now under siege by Russian forces. 

“We need only one thing - the full evacuation of the population. About 100,000 people remain in Mariupol,” he reportedly said on national television. He said that tens of thousands of Mariupol residents were killed, but verified figures were not available.  

Those who have not fled Mariupol are facing scarcity of water, heating and electricity as the city remains under heavy bombing. A convoy was able to leave for Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday, and had arrived on Thursday. 

.On Thursday, Putin said that Mariupol was now in the hands of the Russian military. But according to Ukrainian authorities, a group of fighters is still resisting in the underground bunkers of the Azovstal steel complex, along with several civilians. 

If Putin’s claims are true, Mariupol would be the biggest city to fall to Russia since the start of the war. - Reuters

CALIFORNIA

Russia fines Google over Ukraine ‘fakes’, far-right content

A Russian court has fined Alphabet Inc.'s Google 11 million roubles ($137,763) for failing to delete what it terms "fake" information about the conflict in Ukraine and YouTube videos produced by Ukrainian far-right groups, TASS reported.

Russia’s communications watchdog said earlier this month that it was taking steps to punish Google for “spreading fakes” on YouTube, and has previously warned the U.S. company that it would be fined if it failed to comply, part of a wider battle with foreign tech firms and media to control information flows. - Reuters

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NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to help move India away from its dependence on Russia

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to help move India away from its dependence on Russia by expanding economic and defense ties when he meets with his Indian counterpart Friday, officials said.

Johnson is also expected to bring up the situation in Ukraine during talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"Our relations have never been as strong or as good between us as they are now,’’ Johnson told reporters at a ceremonial reception in the forecourt of the presidential palace in New Delhi on Friday.

MARIUPOL

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Mariupol 'continues to resist'

The devastated city of Mariupol "continues to resist" despite Russian claims to have captured it, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday as he welcomed fresh US aid to help confront Moscow's eastern offensive.

Russia says it has "liberated" the city, with just a few thousand Ukrainian soldiers left in the Azovstal plant complex, where thousands more civilians are also believed to have taken refuge. - AFP

KYIV

Putin tells forces not to storm Ukraine holdout in Mariupol

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces not to storm the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the besieged city of Mariupol on Thursday but instead to block it “so that not even a fly comes through.”

His defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, said the rest of the city beyond the sprawling Azovstal steel plant where Ukrainian forces were holed has been “liberated” — as Russian officials refer to areas of Ukraine they have seized. Mr. Putin hailed that as a “success.”

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WASHINGTON

Biden announces heavy artillery, other weapons for Ukraine

President Joe Biden pledged an additional $1.3 billion Thursday for new weapons and economic assistance to help Ukraine in its strong but increasingly difficult battle against the Russian invasion, and he promised to seek much more from Congress to keep the guns, ammunition and cash flowing.

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